tv Don Lemon Tonight CNN August 19, 2021 12:00am-1:00am PDT
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tonight, president biden is saying u.s. troops may stay in afghanistan past the august 31 deadline to make sure all americans who want to leave the country can get out. and going on the defensive, really, saying the situation there following the u.s. troop withdrawal is not a failure of intelligence, planning, or
execution, and claiming there is no way the u.s. could have withdrawn out afghanistan falling into chaos. >> no. i don't think it could have been handled in a way that -- we're going to go back in hindsight and look. but the idea that somehow there's a way to have gotten out without chaos ensuing, i don't know how that happens. i don't know how that happens. >> so for you that was always priced into the decision? >> yes. >> let's discuss now. cnn's white house correspondent john harwood is here and cnn senior political analyst kirsten powers. let's get into it. john, clearly the president is standing by his decision. what is the white house going to do about this unfolding disaster, what appears to be an unfolding disaster? >> what they're going to do, don, is focus as intently as they can on the very thing that will determine whether it is ultimately a failure, and that is the large scale evacuation of american citizens and afghan allies. the president has acknowledged
that this collapse of the afghan government security forces was faster than he expected. general milley told us today "i had no intelligence saying it could happen in 11 days." our own colleague clarissa ward said this evening that nobody expected this could happen in 11 days. so as a result, the scenes that we're seeing are shocking and disorienting and you're seeing justifiable fear and panic among people who have good reason to be concerned for their lives. however we have not seen evidence of large scale loss of life. we have not had casualties among american troops. they have regained control of the airport in kabul. and the question is can they ramp up those evacuations over the next couple of weeks. 6,000 out so far according to the white house, something on the order of 60,000 to go. it's a very difficult challenge
especially when you're dependent on cooperation from the taliban who are untrustworthy. the white house says they have some leverage, financial and otherwise, over the taliban so they'll try to sustain that. but the question is whether or not they can. and that test is still in front of us. as you indicated, president biden said he was not going to be bound by that august 31 deadline if there are still american citizens who they have not yet gotten out. >> he said he'll extend the deadline to get out if american citizens still haven't been evacuated. what about all the afghans who helped u.s. forces, john, for so many years? >> that's a very good question, and if many of those are left behind and suffer adverse consequences from the taliban, that will be a stain, a mark of failure for the withdrawal, no question about it. the president was a little equivocal on whether or not he would embrace the afghan allies in the extension of that deadline, he sort of suggested he would but make it conditional. we'll have to see how quickly they can round up some of those people, they say they're
processing 500 people an hour into the kabul airport but many of those are far from the airport who have to get to the airport. it's not clear that they can. the taliban said they would give safe passage but the proof will be in the results. >> absolutely. kirsten, if biden thought this withdrawal was going to be chaotic, he never really indicated that to the american people, quite the opposite. this is what he said, and then we'll talk. >> we'll do it responsibly, deliberately and safely. it's a rational drawdown with our allies and it's making -- so there's nothing unusual about it. the drawdown is proceeding in a secure and orderly way, prioritizing the safety of our troops as they depart. there is going to be no circumstance where you'll see people being lifted off the roof of an embassy of the united states from afghanistan. >> so listen. he's always said that he's going to be straightforward with the
american people and not sugarcoat things. what happened here, kirsten? >> well, i mean, there are some pretty arresting and alarming images coming out, when he says we're not going to see people being airlifted, we are seeing people desperate, chasing airplanes to get out of the country. you can argue about whether or not they should have anticipated this or not. but the point is this is happening and i think it would be better if he just would acknowledge that it is happening, and that i think that he hasn't been committed enough and maybe it's just a matter of language and he needs to come back and commit to it, but i think he needs to be more explicit in committing to getting out all of our allies out of the region as quickly as possible. anybody who has followed the taliban should understand exactly how evil they are and exactly what they will do to people who worked with the united states. and so i would say that they
should -- don't try to process things over in afghanistan, just get them out and then process them here. we still have people in iraq who haven't been able to get out. so this is a matter of, a, it's a moral issue, and b, how can we ever expect people to help us moving forward when we are known to leave people behind, people who have risked their lives to help us in iraq, and now potentially in afghanistan? that's a national security issue and it's a moral issue. and so i think that that would be my one point. the other point i would say is, i think we tend to analyze these things in very binary ways, it's very all or nothing. either you can completely leave or you can completely stay. there was a middle ground here. you know, we could have pulled back in terms of aid, perhaps, in terms of, you know, the programs we were running. but we could have also left some
troops there. if it meant to keep holding the taliban at bay, i think there's an argument to be made that would be in our national security interest and certainly in humanitarian interest. it was a relatively small number of troops. we have two groups of people fighting on these extremes rather than talking about wasn't there maybe a middle ground that could have been chosen. >> he was saying he was abiding bit agreement of his predecessor. >> he didn't need to do that. >> right, that was my point. kirsten, mitch mcconnell wouldn't say whether biden should send more troops to -- kind of what we were saying, if he should send more troops to help americans get out of afghanistan. but this is what he told cbs. watch this. >> the president should leave no american behind. i'll leave it up to him to figure out how to correct the mistake that he made.
>> and of course he's saying that joe biden made a mistake, but he dodged talking about trump's role in this crisis. does he have a point that biden is the one who needs to fix this mess? >> well, biden is the president right now. at the same time i would say republicans should just sit down. you know, this is a problem that is not -- was not created by joe biden. this was a problem that's being cleaned up by joe biden. and so, yes, he is responsible for it, but i don't think the peanut gallery should be the one, the republicans who did not deal with this problem and made it worse, and then of course donald trump reached this agreement that they're now all trying to pretend didn't happen with the taliban. so i think that they should -- yeah, i think they should step back and stop acting like they're experts on this issue, and joe biden hopefully can self-correct. i think that -- i don't know why
he felt bound to move forward with an agreement that was reached by donald trump. that makes no sense to me. >> thank you both, appreciate it. now i want to turn to the chaos and the violence at the kabul airport as people desperately tried to flee afghanistan. cnn chief foreign correspondent clarissa ward is in kabul with the story. >> reporter: america's last foothold in afghanistan is now guarded by the taliban. >> you see the taliban all over, they won't allow anyone. >> reporter: we've come to kabul's airport to see the gauntlet people must pass through to fly out. you can hear gunshots every couple of minutes. >> cnn, cnn, cnn. >> reporter: quickly we are accosted by an angry taliban fighter. >> can i ask you a question? [ sound of gunfire ] excuse me. cover my face? >> cover. >> okay. i'll cover my face. what is this? he told me to cover my face. but he doesn't want to comment on that truncheon he's carrying.
>> reporter: the fighter tells us these scenes are the fault of america. the cause of all this is america in afghanistan. look at these people, he says. america is really acting unfairly towards them. why are they lying and telling them they can go to america? why don't they let them stay and help their country? >> he doesn't want to talk to you. >> reporter: we keep walking to avoid confrontation. a man follows us, asking for advice. >> how we can enter the base. >> reporter: how you can enter the base? >> yes. >> reporter: do you have paperwork to enter? >> yes. >> reporter: she me. >> they're calling me. >> reporter: was this an italian company? >> yeah, italian company. >> reporter: yes. >> thank you. >> reporter: others crowd around to show their documents.
you were a translator? >> yes. >> reporter: they all worked with americans as translators, for the americans, and they can't get into that airport. the taliban fighters are a little upset with us. we decide to leave and head for our car. [ sound of gunfire ] the fighter takes the safety off his ak-47 and pushes through the crowd. >> stay behind him, stay behind him. >> reporter: you can see some of these taliban fighters are hopped up on adrenaline or i don't know what. it's a very dicey situation. suddenly two other taliban charge towards us. >> reporter: you can see some of these taliban fighters are hopped up on adrenaline or i don't know what. it's a very dicey situation. suddenly two other taliban
charge towards us. you can see their rifle butt raised to strike producer brent swayles. when the fighters are told we have permission to report, they lower their weapons and let us pass . >> reporter: okay, now we're going. get in the car. don, i should emphasize while the airport has been exceptionally chaotic, most of the city has been relatively calm. again today, we saw people starting to come out onto the streets, stores were open, traffic was moving, traffic policemen were out, government workers. the taliban understands that this is their moment, that the world is watching, and that they need to provide some semblance of law and order which makes those images from the airport all the more stark. and of course the real worry now is that the airport, don, is becoming like a powder keg, and
just one incident, one wrong move, could risk everything exploding into a much more serious conflagration, don. >> clarissa ward in kabul, afghanistan, thank you very much, clarissa. joining me now, fareed zakaria, host of cnn's "fareed zakaria gps." fareed, you just saw this powerful story about what's unfolding on the ground there. the president is saying it's not a failure. what do you think? >> i think you put it very well, don. the way the president described it in the last three months was completely different from what unfolded. obviously it's a screw-up. i think rather than trying to justify the unjustifiable, what the administration should do is try to get phase 2 of this withdrawal right. they botched phase 1. there is simply no other way to describe it. there was no contingency planning. there did not seem to be a
process -- they should have preplanned so that the roads were secure, access to the airport was secure, lists of applicants were prepared. if they knew these people were going to be evacuated, they now say we knew we wanted to evacuate but we didn't want to start evacuating for the last few months because we didn't have a panic. you could have had visas, you could have had a plan, that all could have been in place. obviously that didn't happen. phase 1 was a failure. phase 2 could be a success if they work on the evacuation not just of the americans, obviously that's priority number one, but of the afghans. your guest said it very well, this is not a humanitarian or moral issue. of course it is that, but it's way beyond that. how are you going to get people in taiwan, people in ukraine,
people in every place that you are fighting terrorists, to work with americans if they think that they're going to be left hanging out to dry when the americans decide to leave? >> look, obvious question, fareed. after 20 years of war, did you ever think that we would be in a situation where the united states was forced to rely on the taliban to evacuate people? >> no. because i thought we had established enough of a security presence in afghanistan that even if we left, we would be able to leave in a way where we would secure the airport, secure certain roads, secure certain perimeters. and it's puzzling and bewildering. frankly the military collapse of the afghan army is a historic collapse that needs to be studied and examined. people used to talk about the fall of france, france fell to
hitler's armies in 1940. that was about six weeks. this was about six days. it's breathtaking. and it suggests, again, that the taliban had made deals with all these groups, with all these afghan army contingents in various towns and provinces and afghanistan, because the taliban would enter, very quickly, almost instantly, the army would surrender and would hand over its weapons, meaning we're not going to try to do any kind of new operation, regroup, nothing. it's over. did that all happen entirely spontaneously or were these a series of deals that had been made over the last two years? and if the latter, how come we didn't know anything about it? >> his message, the president's message to u.s. allies has been, america is back. he repeated it on almost every stop of his first foreign trip. what do you think those allies
are thinking right now, fareed? >> we know, the person who is going to succeed anglo america most likely is the chancellor of germany, who called this the biggest crisis for nato since its founding. the brits, who are visibly upset, they rarely criticize washington, they're openly criticizing washington. the germans are doing the same. you're hearing it from nato members. look, nobody -- very few people at that level particularly are contesting the basic decision that the united states had to end a 20-year war in afghanistan that frankly was not working. the taliban -- we were not able to defeat the taliban. the taliban was resurgent over the last several years. but the manner in which it was
done seems extraordinarily poorly planned. and the way in which, frankly, the president is defending it is cavalier and callous. he should know better. it sends a message that he doesn't seem to care about the humanitarian crisis, he doesn't seem to care about the tens of thousands of afghans who put their lives on the line to work and fight with the americans. and as i say, what signal are you sending to every human being who the united states is going to try to recruit? the united states is going to have to recruit many, many people in, you know, asia, in the middle east, in europe, to work with us. what are you saying to those people? >> fareed, i always enjoy your perspective, you're so right,
most of the time, 99.9% of the time. fareed, thank you, sir, i really appreciate you joining us. for more with fareed, tune in to "fareed zakaria gps" right here on cnn. thousands of afghans are in mortal danger now because of what they have done for our country. and it's despicable that some on the right are demonizing them now. >> we intend to evacuate those who have been supporting us for years and we're not going to leave them behind and we'll get out as many as possible.
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>> if history is any guide, and it's always a guide, we will see many refugees from afghanistan resettle in our country in coming months, probably in your neighborhood. and over the next decade that number may swell to the millions. so first we invade and then we're invaded. >> is it really our responsibility to welcome potentially thousands of unvetted refugees from afghanistan? we've heard, we promised them. who did? did you? >> okay. and then there's a former trump adviser, steve cortes, tweeting, "raise your hand if you want this plane landing in your town." here so discuss, cnn national security analyst juliette kayyem, and craig whitlock, author of "the afghanistan papers: a secret history of the war." i'm so glad to have both of you on this evening, thank you so much. juliette, it didn't take long for the anti-immigrant fox hosts to portray people in crisis as
invaders, stoking fear. they have no shame. >> no. and actually the history that they relate is actually quite wrong. the integration of refugees in particular has been a great american success story. we're actually quite good at it here in america. 50,000 afghan refugees in a nation of over 300 million is not even a drop in the bucket. but i think that they are presenting a fiction also about the process. so people should understand the process. these are afghans who have applied through the department of defense program. they are then approved because someone in the department of defense says yes, they helped us. then it goes to the department of state for the visa processing. then they're flown over. the department of homeland security has a rigorous immigration review. then they are sent to nonprofits
and volunteers who will take them in and then that process is thoroughly vetted for months and years to come. so the idea that we're like flopping them into american cities shows their ignorance. this is all a scare tactic to deflect from a larger discussion that they -- basically to just be racist, let's be clear, i don't know why i wasn't going to say that word. >> but they're showing people who jumped on the military planes, that these people are going to somehow end up in communities in america and they have been unvetted. is there any truth to that? >> no. in other words, the only thing that has changed is both the speed of the vetting and sometimes the vetting is taking place wherever the plane is landing. but all of these people are known. let me just explain, i know everyone is very emotional about those pictures this weekend and what we saw. the reason why the airport had
to be closed was because we lost control of the airport. the people that you saw running towards the airplane were likely not the people that were being processed through a more formal process. you have this horrible -- everyone is very upset and i recognize that. part of what's happening is, stabilize the airport, get a process moving. it's chaotic, it looks horrible, it's tragic, but this is what happens when we lose a war. >> i want to bring in craig, we did make a commitment to people who helped u.s. forces. so talk about what they've done for our military. i mean, many veterans credit them with saving american lives. >> you're right about that, don. a lot of the advocates to bring the afghans to the united states and resettle them somewhere safe are military veterans who served with them in afghanistan, who relied on them as interpreters predominantly but also all sorts of help during the last 20 years. there is an awful lot of people
in afghanistan who cast their lot with the united states. and there are a lot of military personnel in the united states, current active duty and veterans, who do feel an obligation to take care of those folks. >> what should people know before making some sort of judgment about these people or, you know, demonizing them in any way, craig? >> look, this is a very fluid, chaotic situation there. and the taliban, you have to remember, has just a long record of brutality, particularly taking it out on religious minorities. the shia in afghanistan, the hazara ethnic group. there are a lot of people with good reason to have fear for their lives from the taliban. it's across the board that way. and now that the taliban actually controls the entire country, they're more powerful
now than they were back in 2001. at that point, when we invaded, the taliban controlled most of the country but not all of it. so for the taliban, they're better off now than they were 20 years ago. so i think in afghanistan, people who remember those dark days when the taliban ran the government, they're very scared, and understandably so. >> listen, i just want to say, craig has a book called "the afghanistan papers: a secret history of the war." you should all check it out. thank you very much for that, craig. after the former trump adviser steve cortes tweeted this, his tweet was inundated with responses of people saying that they would gladly welcome these afghans into their communities. probably something that he did not expect. and good for the folks who said they would welcome them in. we'll be right back. the rollout of booster shots for fully vaccinated adults here
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locations nationwide. it will be easy. just show your vaccination card and you'll get a booster. >> but it's all going to depend on the fda giving the green light. dr. david rubin is director of policy lab at the children's hospital of philadelphia. thank you, doctor, for joining us. so cases are up 36% in just the last week. today we got new data from the cdc showing immunity from the vaccine is dropping as the months go by. but experts are split on this third dose. what do you think, is this the way to keep folks safe? >> you know, i think it's a little bit premature to think that everyone in the country needs a booster dose yet. certainly there are elderly folks and folks who are immunocompromised, people who have cancer, who have not been able to boost a response against the vaccine. it certainly makes sense to try to get the booster out to those people as soon as possible.
but, you know, i think the controversy is really whether people suspect we're seeing more severe disease among those who has been vaccinated and thus far there hasn't been pervasive evidence that there's been breakthrough infections of a magnitude that we should be concerned. that said, the cdc has data they're just beginning to share and there are other countries also reviewing those data. so planning ahead to have those booster shots in place makes some sense. >> i want to ask you about this concerning rise in covid cases among kids, doctor. 121,000 new pediatric cases were reported just last week. in the last few days we've heard of a 13-year-old and a 16-year-old dying from covid complication. this is not the same covid we encountered back in 2020. >> you know, someone who is following the pediatric issues very closely, i think we have to be careful not to overstate as well what we're watching here. certainly kids are being represented more among those who are being infected. large numbers of unvaccinated
children mixing in casual gatherings with unvaccinated and vaccinated adults, in areas with low vaccination rates, we're seeing a lot more kids getting infected. but when you actually look at the hospitalizations, they've been very concentrated in the south. and the risk of hospitalization once a child is infected has not really changed that much. i think people would be surprised to recognize that only about 50 to 60 kids have been hospitalized in the entire northeast region this past week in terms of the hospital census. so this has been very localized. you'll see at children's hospitals, because kids centralize there, you'll see a few kids in the icu, on ventilators, and certainly you'll see deaths from time to time. that's reason enough to vaccinate kids. but i think we have to be careful not to overstate how much severe disease we're seeing in kids. it's still a lower risk for kids. >> as you said, you've got more kids circulating. before they were sort of isolated because we were in quarantine.
now they're out and about and they're among people who are not vaccinated and who may have covid, understood. so let's talk quickly about masks in schools. florida's governor put some legislation in place disallowing school districts to ban masks. one district has 10,000 students in quarantine. can schools realistically remain open without masking? >> i think schools have to be very pragmatic this year. certainly, you know, there's a lot of interest in mask-optional policies and there will be a time for that, but during periods of surging transmission, or goal is to keep kids in school and keep them healthy. the goal is to keep capacity at hospitals at a level where we can see both covid and non-covid patients have the kind of access they need. so wearing masks indoors, particularly in our schools
during periods of surging transmission, is a practical solution regardless of where you sit on the debate on whether kids should be wearing masks, so we can keep our kids in school and not have to quarantine so many kids. >> dr. rubin, thank you very helps keep baby's skin drier and healthier. so every touch will protect like the first. pampers
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>> politicians want to force you to cover your face as a way for them to cover their own asses. that's just the truth. >> so i want to remind you that thousands of people including students and teachers have now tested positive for coronavirus in florida. almost 20,000 in quarantine or isolation as the delta variant surges in that state. cnn political commentators ana navarro and scott jennings, welcome to both of you. ana, florida is your state, this is your governor. it's speaking out against masks, trying to punish schools who require students and staff to wear masks. what do you see it? >> look, i think it's highly political. he's running for reelection next year. and we all know he's already posturing to be the republican nominee in 2024 should trump not
run. and i think what's happened with ron desantis is, it's almost, you know, it's almost something that they inherited from donald trump, which is that when you make a mistake, you double down. you don't admit the mistake. you don't ask for forgiveness. you don't say you regret it. look, we're seeing in arkansas, for example, the republican governor there, asa hutchinson, saying he regrets having signed a law banning mask mandates, because of the delta variant. the delta variant is something nobody was expecting, nobody was predicting. so i think it gives him a reason to change his rhetoric, change his course of action. but because of what trump supporters and the people he's trying to play to in the base, ron desantis, what they want is him to continue the same way, double down on his mistake. he won't admit the mistake. and don, let me tell you this. between my husband and i, there
are nine children under the age of 12 in our family and one on the way. it is criminal, what these parents are living under. these children are not republicans or democrats. they are schoolchildren. they are florida's children. for ron desantis to be playing dictator with school boards and teachers and superintendents, it is so anticonservative. and scott knows this. >> before we run out of time, i need to scott in. >> republicans believe in local control. >> scott, go for it, please, we don't have that much time. >> yeah, i tend to think that the local school boards and superintendents are the best equipped to make decisions. i've got four kids in three schools, i'm dealing with a lot of different circumstances. i would trust the people running those schools more than a governor, whether that's a republican or a democrat
governor, to make the right decisions. so i don't like the top down mandates. i also don't like prohibiting a local school doing what it things is right for that school in that community. i would also say this. all the parents i know, their number one overriding issue, don, is we've got to keep the schools open, and whatever we have to do to keep the schools open, because everybody knows the damage that was done when the schools were closed. and, you know, i'm a conservative, i tend to resist mandates. if wearing a mask is the price of admission to keep the schools open, i want to keep the schools open, because i think closing them again would be a huge disservice to our children. >> just real quickly, the biggest district in the state, right, the miami-dade school board, saying today they're going to enforce masks even after the state board voted to punish other districts for just that. i mean, ron desantis, let me give his response, he says forced masking of all schoolchildren is not consistent
with protecting parents' rights to make health and education decisions for their own children. i mean, come on, scott, i think you answered it in your previous answer, but it's ridiculous. >> yeah, my general view is that the best answer here is to let these local school districts do what's best. again, there may be school districts,they don't need to do it, and there may be places where they do. republican orthodoxy for my entire career has been local control, especially in schooling, is the best control. and i tend to think consistency here would be good. >> so the president of the united states said earlier today that he believes that politicians should get out of the way, that they're actually putting politics ahead of children's lives, and he is looking for the possibility to see if the government can step in, if there's anything legally he can do. ana, i'll give you the last word, is that the right way to go? >> look, if you've got a governor who is threatening. is
withholding funds and the federal government wants to come in and say we will make up those funds, think that is the right way to go. but, don, let's just -- you know, when it comes to school children and let's talk about florida. okay? >> i have, like, 20 seconds, anna. >> some are small. some are large. not all florida counties are the same. and it -- leave it up to the teachers, the superintendents, school boards, the scientists, the doctors, not some political guy running for office. >> got it. thank you, both. i appreciate it. anna, i wish i was there with you. i'm jealous. hawaii. >> you don't want to come to louisville? louisville's easier to get to. >> only if i could lose weight like you have lost, scott. thank you, both. i will see you soon. we'll be right back.
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because -- ah, there it is. i am thrilled to announce the cnn family is growing and my colleague is shrinking. i am sure she is happy about that but she is gorgeous, anyways. our senior political correspondent, abby phillip, is a new mom to baby naomi. coming into the world on monday, weighing just about 7 1/2 pounds, and measuring a little more than 20 inches. look at the -- look at those big, beautiful eyes. big hugs to abby, her husband marcus, and naomi. last time i saw abby was in the airport. and she was ready for this to happen. so, congratulations. and before we go, i want to make sure you know about the "we love new york city, the homecoming concert." make sure you join us for a once-in-a-lifetime concert event starting this saturday at 5:00 p.m. exclusively on cnn. again, congratulations to abby
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u.s. president biden dismisses the criticism over america's withdrawal from afghanistan remaining defiant despite the taliban's lightning-fast victory. chaos outside the kabul airport with thousands desperate to leave. clarissa ward is there. plus the science behind the plan to allow covid booster shots to already vaccinated americans. live from cnn world headquarters in atlanta, welcome to all of you watching us here in the united states, canada and around th